§ Viscount Sandon
, in consequence of the notice he had given, respecting the French blockade of the Mexican ports, presented a petition from the merchants of Liverpool on that subject. It was a subject which had previously been before the House. He thought, he perhaps need not further allude to the contents, as he should be called upon to move for them in some detail. He would only remark, that this petition was not one signed only by the merchants of Liverpool, but was signed 892 by other persons also. (Other similar petitions having been presented, the noble Lord proceeded.) The motion of which he had given notice was for the production of certain papers between certain merchants in connexion with the trade of Mexico and Buenos Ayres and the members of her Majesty's Government, whether abroad, or in the department of the Foreign Office. He felt much embarrassment in putting himself forward on the present occasion, considering the amount of interest involved in the question, and the greater amount of interest connected with the subject, one co-extensive with the most vital interests of British commerce. He should not have thought of mixing a question of this nature up with a question of the law of nations, a question for which he was not fitted by peculiar education, if he had not been called on most imperatively, some way or other, to bring the question before the House. In bringing forward this question, he confessed he felt one difficulty very forcibly—that the nature of the discussion almost imposed on him the necessity of entering in some degree on a sort of criticism on the actions and proceedings of a friendly nation; and, therefore, he should take the liberty of disclaiming at the very outset of his observations any feeling of hostility against a country upon the conduct of which he was called on to make some remarks, in any other way than that their proceedings were at variance with the interests of Great Britain, and against the interest of all other nations with which Mexico had any extensive commerce. Perhaps it was necessary, before he went into the case, in some degree to allude to the proceedings, both with regard to Buenos Ayres and Mexico, which had preceded the blockade, the effect of which all who were engaged in British commerce had such reason to deplore. At the same time it was not the business of that House to enter into the policy of a foreign country, except as it regarded the interests of this. He should endeavour, therefore, to make his observations as concise as possible. With regard to Buenos Ayres, for a long period of time France had shown a great desire to possess considerable influence in the river Plata. They had evidence of this early desire of France, not only in the state papers published by the Foreign Office in 1820 and 1821, but also in the communications and investigations on this 893 subject with M. Chateaubriand. In the year 1821, under the administration of that prime minister of France, the government of France entered into negotiations for the purpose of establishing a Bourbon dynasty as the government of that devoted colony. As soon as this was discovered, Mr. Canning, the then Minister of England, made a most decided communication to France, inquiring if such was the intention of France. If he (Lord Sandon) was not misinformed, to that question M. Chateaubriand gave a denial; but subsequently the vanity of that distinguished man had led him to betray the fact that his denial was not founded on fact, and that his intrigues in France had that object. But he confessed that this early proceeding gave them a little insight into the motives of the transactions which France had been carrying on lately in Buenos Ayres, and led them to imagine that it was not simply for the redress of her grievances by that republic, but for the purpose of carrying on her ancient interests in that state, and for which she had taken the very extraordinary and unusual measure she had. It was a remarkable fact that France had throughout interfered in the internal divisions of that state. She had protected the Minister of that state, who bad been driven by an act of his Government to seek refuge in France. He remained there a considerable time with other refugees, and with them had now returned to Buenos Ayres under the protection of the French flag. The ostensible causes, however, of the differences between Buenos Ayres and France, were, so far as he could collect them, amidst the liberal profusion of phraseology displayed in all the diplomatic correspondence on this question on both sides, cut of which it was very difficult to obtain any information, so far as he had been able to detect, the avowed objects of France were the protection of some of her subjects who had settled within the district of Buenos Ayres from being called on to serve in the militia, that they should have the right of retail trade, and they also sought for indemnity for some injuries which particular individuals of that nation had suffered, or at least had been stated to have suffered; but greatly predominating over all these was the imposition on the state of Buenos Ayres of a treaty of commerce similar to that enjoyed by Great Britain. He thought, 894 though the exemption from serving in the militia might be a cause for negotiation, and an object desirable for France to attain for her subjects, it yet did not furnish a just cause of war. With regard to the individual cases alluded to, he confessed they appeared to him exceedingly trifling, and not such as warranted the proceedings which had been taken. One man had entered into the service of the state of Buenos Ayres, had betrayed his trust, and was thrown into prison; he conceived that the Government had no longer any right to interfere in that case. Another case was that of a Frenchman, who was a settler to the Buenos Ayres army, and who was convicted of robbing the mess, and he also had been imprisoned for his misconduct. He conceived that in this case the French government had no right to interfere. There were two or three cases of this kind, one for the removal of a glue manufactory, which was a public nuisance. Cases of this kind might justify the interference of the French government, but were utterly inadequate to justify the exhibition of national resentment. He believed, also, that no nation had a right to impose on another country a treaty of commerce, and make the refusal of it a cause of war. After a good deal of negotiation backward and forward, the French Admiral who was charged with the negotiation being apparently on the point of coming to terms, some discontented chiefs of Buenos Ayres or Monte Video had interposed and broken off the amicable negotiation, and measures of a hostile tendency were then entered into. A remarkable circumstance connected with this transaction was, that France, not content with the simple question of blockade, had condescended to associate her Hag with the flag of individuals actually in rebellion to the Government, and in concert with those rebels had at one moment overturned the regular government at Monte Video, with which she was at peace. In concert with another rebel individual, they had seized the island of Martin Garcia, in the river Plata, and the flag of France was now flying in that place. The government of France had put itself in the singular position of uniting with rebels to a government with which, at the same moment they were in treaty. To this island of Martin Garcia France had sent down troops, and was fortifying it, and from its position it gave her the 895 command of the river Plata, and control over the whole commerce of the river. She was sending out workmen also to erect fortifications there. Several vessels were sent out by France with workmen and officers to occupy this island. These facts justified him in the statement made at the outset, that the movements made in South America were not for the purposes avowed by the French government, but were a continuation of that plan acted upon, though disavowed by it, in 1821, to get possession of some portion of the South American states. The disputes of France with Mexico were much of the same nature as those with Buenos Ayres, though he confessed that the French had more reason to complain of the conduct of Mexico than of Buenos Ayres. He did not deny that France, as well as other nations which had to deal with Mexico, had much reason to be dissatisfied with her conduct, and he had had on more than one occasion to complain on the part of his constituents of the injustice of the Mexican government. It had levied forced loans without distinction of the subjects of other nations who were affected by it; but this they justified on the plea of necessity; in fact, like other half-civilized, half-organized states, Mexico was not in a condition to afford adequate protection to the subjects of other nations, but he must say, that that did not justify France in proceeding to the extremities she did. He did not feel it necessary on this occasion to enter into an examination in detail of the grounds stated by France for her blockade of the coasts of Mexico, but it could not be denied, that the French government, whatever might have been the real ground of dispute, had made an attempt to extort commercial advantages under the pretext of redressing individual grievances. After a good deal of negotiation on this subject, a blockade of the Mexican ports was notified by France in May last, and made, in his opinion, with a force not sufficient to justify her Majesty's Government in acknowledging it at first, but he admitted, that afterwards a force sufficient for an effective blockade had been sent out under Admiral Baudin. The question which he raised on this part of the case was, whether, in the first instance, Great Britain was called upon to recognize the blockade with such breathless haste as it had done; and next whether, considering the great amount of Brit- 896 ish interests at stake, the French had any just ground for a blockade, and whether it was at first enforced by a force sufficiently effective. He confessed, for his own part, that he much doubted whether the French were justified in the blockade at all. He was but little skilled in those questions which arose out of international law, but he had the curiosity to look into several writers of admitted authority on these subjects, and, notwithstanding the practice which had grown up of recent date of resorting to blockade on slight occasions, and before a declaration of war, he found in those authorities a decided opinion, that a blockade was a purely belligerent right. It had, however, been of late used in a different sense. He could not in the authorities to which he had referred, find any case in which it had been recognized in any other sense. It seemed not to have been a case at all contemplated. It was like parricide under the Romans—no punishment had been decreed against it, because it was a case not at all contemplated. Looking at the decisions of Sir William Scott, he found that blockade had always been held as a pure right of war between belligerent parties; that it was looked upon as an extreme right of war, as it inflicted so much injury, not alone on the nation whose ports were declared in a state of blockade, but also on the interests of neutral powers, and on those grounds Sir W. Scott would not recognize it in any other sense. He (Lord Sandon) looked upon blockade as something analogous to a state of siege, which no power had a right to enter upon except in a state of war. This was the opinion of Bynkershoek, that it was purely a belligerent right of parties at declared war. All authoritative writers on the law of nations admitted, that a blockade to be recognized must be effective not only for one but for all of the ports declared to be blockaded, that it should be as far as possible a circumvallation of those ports, if he might so use that word, so as to make it a matter of great risk for any vessel to attempt to go in or come out of those ports. This was the opinion of very high naval authorities. It was held by the British Admiral Rowley, who was at the head of a naval force in those very waters in 1821 and 1822. At that period a blockade had been proclaimed by the Spanish government of the ports in the Rio de la Plata, by which British 897 commerce in those quarters had suffered very considerably. On that occasion the British Admiral addressed a remonstrance to the Spanish officer in command of the blockading force, in which he declared, that he would resist the blockade, against the legality of which he protested; that legality, he observed, depending on the power of the blockading force, to prevent any vessel from going in or coming out of the blockaded ports without great risk. Now, he wanted to know, whether a similar course had been adopted with respect to the blockade of the ports of Mexico?—whether the blockade was effective as to all the ports, for if it was not effective in some, it would vitiate the whole? The Admiral went on to say, that the blockading ships could not enforce it partially, and only where these ships happened to be, for the blockade must be effectively kept in all. The language of Sir W. Scott on the same subject was, that the besieging force must be applied to all the ports. Now, he much doubted, whether the French blockading force could extend to all the ports of Mexico, particularly the northern. The language used by the French Admiral in 1826, on the same subject, was similar to that held by Admiral Rowley,—nay, it went beyond it, for the French Admiral held, that the blockade ceased to be effective even if the blockading force should be driven off by stress of weather. That, however, was an extreme for which he (Lord Sandon) did not contend. An American commodore held similar language in the case of a declared blockade by a Brazilian force, which the American would not recognize, unless there had been a previous declaration of war. Having said thus much as to the right of blockade, he would now come to the course pursued by her Majesty's Government with respect to the complaints of British merchants. Soon after the knowledge of the blockade reached this country, great anxiety was naturally manifested by merchants connected with the Mexican trade, and he (Lord Sandon) had had several communications with his noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs on the subject. He would not allude to those of a private nature, but would confine himself to public official communications, and he thought, that from these he should be able to show, that so far from the Government having shown any disposition to oppose the conduct of the French, 898 it had throughout supported it, and from the beginning had given the cold shoulder to the complaints of the British merchants, and that this indifference to those complaints had extended from the Foreign office to the Admiralty. France he would admit, might have had some ground for the course which she took, but considering the great interests at stake, and the necessity of preventing the shedding of human blood, the British Government was bound at once to have demanded from France a full statement of the grounds of the blockade and to have mitigated, if it could not wholly prevent, the injuries which that blockade was calculated to inflict on our commerce. What, however, had occurred? The first communication to Government on the subject was the remonstrance from the merchants of Liverpool. They claimed that protection to which British vessels were entitled, and they added, that a short time before the date of their memorial (in June) there was not a British ship of war off any of the ports of Mexico, that several vessels richly laden which had sailed from our shores in March had been warned off the coast, and that the Americans, taking advantage of their proximity, were reaping the benefits of our exclusion by supplying Mexico with articles which they used to get from us, and that this supply was carried on by a contraband trade with the smaller Mexican ports. Well, it might be expected that his noble Friend, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, would at least have assured the merchants that he would do all in his power to protect British commerce with Mexico, which from Liverpool alone was worth half a million annually, but they had not received even that small consolation. They received an answer acknowledging the receipt of their memorial, and stating, that the French government, in blockading the ports of Mexico, had not exceeded any of those maritime, or international laws, which Great Britain had so often acted upon in her blockades, and that, therefore, there was no ground of complaint on the part of the merchants, or any right of interference with France by this Government. His noble Friend (Lord Palmerston) had stated that he would uphold the strict enforcement of the law of blockade on which he had acted. Would that we had now Mr. Canning at the head of our foreign affairs; he could easily imagine the indignant remonstrance which he would have sent 899 against the late aggression on our commerce. Instead of that, the merchants who remonstrated, got the cold reception be had mentioned, and were told that they had no right to complain, and that her Majesty's Government had no right to interfere. Another application made by the merchants of London had been met by an answer of a similar kind; the conduct of France was defended, and the same unwillingness as before was manifested to take any step in favour of British commerce. In the month of August an application had been made to the Admiralty by parties connected with the Mexican trade, and the assistance of a packet was sought to bring specie from Mexico, a right or privilege which had been granted to American merchants. What had been the reception given to that application? Was any desire evinced to mitigate the injuries suffered in consequence of the blockade? The applicants were told by the Secretary to the Admiralty, that, having laid their letter desiring further protection for British commerce to Mexico, before their Lordships, they had directed him to state they did not see any ground for interfering with the French blockade. If that were so, then why had a British force been sent there since? If there had been no necessity for sending out a force then, what necessity existed for our keeping up a force there now? A remarkable fact was, that British packets and ships of war had formerly enjoyed the privilege of carrying out specie in spite of a blockade, but even this privilege had been withdrawn in the present instance. His friends, however, not satisfied with the answers they had received from the Government, had again pressed the subject upon the Ministers, and complained of the privilege to which he had just alluded being enjoyed by the American ships, although the British vessels were deprived of it. But slow were the Government in answering these complaints, and when they did so, they appeared to take the part of the French, instead of evincing a desire to protect the British interests, There was also another instance of the conduct of the Government. The merchants in Liverpool and London were not satisfied with the assurances they had received from the Government that this blockade was effectual, and quoted several instances to the contrary, and mentioned the port of Tampico having been then 900 thirty or forty days without any vessel. To this they received for answer that the blockade was not to be considered ineffectual because, by stress of wind and weather, vessels had been prevented from occupying certain ports. But surely it was not the part of Government thus to excuse the inefficiency of the blockade. On the contrary, they ought to have taken the course which had been followed on former occasions by Admiral Rowley, Captain Heywood, and Admiral De Courcy, by insisting on the blockade being rendered effectual where it was enforced at all, and not in seeking to make our situation worse, by preventing opportunities of introducing British commerce. There was also another point relative to the port of Laguna. It appeared, that at that place there was not one single ship until the 30th of May, although it was the only port for the important article of logwood. Now last year he had presented a petition from his own constituents, signed by persons of all parties, complaining in general terms of the want of protection which the Government had extended to that branch of commerce, and in his opinion, they were justified in their complaint. In June last it was known in this country that an expedition had been sent out from France, to interfere with Mexico, and yet it was not until the 28th of October that any instructions or vessels were sent out, or that Mr. Pakenham the chargé ď affaires had sailed, so that nearly five months had elapsed after the Ministers were cognisant of the facts before any proceedings were taken. Some communication certainly appeared to have taken place between our Government and France in the month of August, the nature of which was not stated, but he was satisfied that the language of her Majesty's Ministers to the French government was not very decided or likely to be very effective. He thought he had a right to say, that where great commercial interests were at stake and foreigners were looked upon with a jealous eye, where fears were entertained of foreign force and bombardment was not unlikely to follow, it was the business of the Government to anticipate consequences, and not to ask the House for an acquittal of allowing British interests to be assailed. At the blockade of Vera Crux, when the British fled from the town, and left their property unprotected, he thought it was a serious injury to their character and 901 standing, and to the importance and dignity of the merchants of this country. The Buenos Ayres trade, also, was too important for the Government to overlook. He had specific amounts of the exports to that State, from Liverpool alone, during the years 1836 and 1837, and it appeared that they amounted in each year to about £.500,000, and on an average employed eighty vessels in that trade. The House, however, knew, that for the last three-quarters of a year there had been interruptions to trading with that country, and he would not, therefore, go more into details. With reference to the conduct of the French towards Mexico, it seemed to him that there was on their part a determination to make a permanent settlement in that country, and an inclination not merely to protect their subjects, but to pursue objects for their own aggrandizement. He had not entirely forgotten the affront which had been offered to an officer at Algiers, having led to the establishment of the French power there, and, subsequently, to the extension of the Algerine territories under the dominion of France. In Brazilian Guiana, also, they had made use of petty disputes in order to get a permanent possession of that country. He thought, therefore, that we had a right to look with suspicion on the proceedings of France towards Mexico, and that the British Minister ought not to have taken the part of that Government instead of advocating British interests. He had trespassed on the House at great length, but he was trusted with the representation of a great commercial constituency, and he must therefore call on the House to give this subject a full discussion, that it might be known what was the course the Government had taken, and how little protection had been afforded to the British merchants. If the Government had interposed, as they ought, and in firm language had remonstrated with France on the disproportion of the object they had announced that they were following, with the means that they employed in order to effect it—if Ministers had represented the injuries the French were inflicting on Mexico and on us, and had said, that they were willing to interpose with Mexico on the subjects of complaint—if they had really sent a British force within the contested waters of the river La Plata, or the Gulf of Mexico—not indeed with any hostile views, but 902 only to protect the British interests in case of any collision with a foreign Power, then was he convinced, that France would not have pushed us to the extent she had—she would not for a whole year have interrupted our great interests in the mines of Mexico, amounting to about £.12,000,000 of specie annually remitted to this country, and, above all, that the honour of the British flag would not have been exposed to the insult it had recently received. He therefore felt himself entitled to call on her Majesty's Government "for copies of any memorials addressed to her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs by British merchants trading with Mexico and Buenos Ayres, praying his interference to protect British commerce against the effect of blockades established in the ports of those countries by the Government of France; together with the correspondence with the said merchants arising there out." He should also like to know the amount of British force present in the bay of Vera Cruz at the time of the taking of the Castle of San Juan ďUlloa by the French squadron under Admiral Baudin, and at the taking of Vera Cruz by the same squadron. He also desired to know what was the tone of the noble Secretary's remonstrance with the French Government, and whether he took in his negotiations with that Government the same British tone which he had exhibited in that House on the same subject. The noble Viscount concluded by moving an humble Address for the papers just mentioned.
§ Viscount Palmerston
, in rising to reply to the speech which had just been addressed to the House, felt bound to do the noble Lord opposite the justice to say, that he had brought forward the question in a manner as little calculated as possible to cause embarrassment to the great interests involved. With regard to the greater part of the documents, he offered no objection to their production. But he considered, it would not be consistent with the interests of the public service to produce copies of the communications pending between the English and French Governments on the subject alluded to by the noble Lord. In the principle laid down by the noble Lord, that the act of blockade was the act of a belligerent party, he was prepared to concur, and equally agreed with the noble Lord in thinking, that to be respected it ought to be effective; but 903 he differed from the noble Lord with respect to the application of his principle. In reference to the blockades mentioned by the noble Lord, the Government had not acted on its own unadvised responsibility, but had consulted the law advisers of the Crown, and by their opinion the Government had been guided. The noble Lord appeared to think, that the Government, by notifying to British merchants the state of blockade of the ports of South America, had sanctioned that blockade; whereas the only object and only effect of that notification was to warn our merchants of the danger which might possibly arise from any attempt on their part to break the blockade. Such was the case with regard to the blockade of Tampico; and he conceived, that the Government had only performed its duty in cautioning British merchants against the possibility of risk, which they might have incurred, in sending their ships from this country to South America, in ignorance of the existence of a blockade. But if, on the contrary, Ministers had adopted the course advised by the noble Lord—if they had said to British merchants, "Go and enter the port with your ships;" they would not only have taken upon themselves, but would also have put upon the country, the responsibility of going to war with France in support of the claims of any British merchant whose ship might have been taken on entering the port of Tampico, when in a state of blockade. The position of France and Mexico, previous to the imposition of the blockade was such, that those two parties might virtually be considered in a state of war: because France having announced, that if certain demands made by her were not acceded to, the commander of her naval force would be authorised, by his instructions, to take certain steps in order to procure the redress which was sought, he conceived, when compliance with those demands was refused, war was the necessary consequence. Therefore, blockade was not a measure of coercion during peace, but must be looked upon as a step taken by a party in a state of war, and on that ground the blockade must be considered as legal and justifiable. With regard to the effectiveness of the blockade, he must observe, that from the commencement a sufficient force had been maintained by France for the blockade of the Mexican ports. It might be true, that during a certain period Tampico was not blockaded; but he put it again to the House, whether 904 the Government would have been justified in advising British merchants to send their property to a place which most probably would be in a state of blockade when their property arrived there. In the outset, then, he entirely denied the charge brought against him personally and against the Government to which he had the honour to belong, of being indifferent to the commercial interests of the country, and that they identified themselves rather with the interests of other nations. He most unequivocally declared, that there never existed in this country an Administration which paid more attention to the commercial interests of the country than the present Government. Much as the Ministers thought it their duty to cultivate the friendly alliance of other nations, they still looked upon the interest of England as the interest which ought to be the polar star and guiding principle of their conduct; and he defied any man to point to any one act of his, while holding the office of Foreign Minister, which showed that he had any other principle or object in view than the interest of the country to which he belonged. He, therefore, repelled the taunt thrown against him, and which was unworthy of his noble Friend; and he was satisfied, that no person who knew any thing of his private feeling or public conduct could do otherwise than acquit him of such a charge. The noble Lord said, that France, even under the dominion of the elder branch of the Bourbons, had manifested a wish to establish, in 1821, the Duke of Lucca as sovereign of Buenos Ayres. Such a course of conduct, however, would appear to him more likely to proceed from a monarchical feeling on the part of France than from a desire to establish French influence in South America; because the Duke of Lucca was more connected with the family of Spain than with that of France. At the same time, it was not unnatural that France should have the same wish to extend her commercial relations as the noble Lord entertained to see the commerce of England extended. However, he did not stand there in the character which the noble Lord attempted to thrust upon him—namely, as acting the part of a Minister of France rather than of England, and, therefore, it was, that he thought the example set by the noble Lord, of impugning the course taken by one foreign nation with regard to another, ought to be followed with caution; because the party accused was not present to offer a 905 defence of his conduct. If such a line of proceeding was generally pursued, it would be necessary to have treaties empowering the Ministers of one country to be present in the Legislature of another, in order to defend themselves when attacked; as the French Ministers were, for the same purpose, allowed to enter both the legislative chambers of France. He did not, however, intend to apply these general remarks to the course pursued on the present occasion by the noble Lord, because he had made all his remarks bear upon the general interests of this country. He, therefore, did not feel it incumbent on him to reply to the statement of the noble Lord, that in the disputes with Buenos Ayres and Mexico, France had, in the means she had adopted for enforcing her demands, exceeded her right. He quite agreed with the noble Lord, that it was not fitting for one country to attempt, by the force of arms, to compel another to conclude a treaty of commerce, which ought to be the result of spontaneous negotiations between independent powers,—and he was likewise prepared to say, that the performance of military service was a duty which an independent state might enforce on all sojourners within its territory, and that exemption from such service ought to be made matter of treaty. At the same time, he must say, that the English Government had had frequent occasion, and for a long time, to complain of grievous injustice committed by the Mexican Government on British subjects; and, therefore, it would be drawing too hasty a conclusion to infer that the Government of France might not, in consequence of the complaints of the subjects of that country meeting with no attention, have felt that it was justified in bringing such a state of things to a definite termination. The noble Lord imagined, that the object of France was to form a permanent establishment in the island of Martin Garcia; but he could assure the noble Lord, that her Majesty's present Government had obtained, with respect to that island, better assurances from France than the noble Lord's friends had received with respect to Algiers; for assurances of the most formal character had been given that France did not intend, and never had intended, to retain any portion of the territory of Buenos Ayres or Mexico. With respect to Buenos Ayres, the British Government had been, for a considerable time endeavouring, by negotiation, to bring about some accommodation 906 between the two hostile powers; and that constituted an additional reason why he should not enter into any detailed discussion as to the merits of the case, as respected the two parties, between whom the English Government was endeavouring to bring about an accommodation. With respect to Mexico, he had, on a former occasion, stated how the matter stood. It was well known, that when the dispute first arose between France and Mexico, the English Government offered its mediation, which was declined, in the first instance, by the French Minister in Mexico. That mediation was, nevertheless, subsequently admitted, and our Charg£ ďAffaires, Mr. Ashburnham, was instructed to effect an accommodation between the parties, which duty he discharged ably, zealously, and with considerable success. That gentleman, while affording protection to the subjects of England, had exerted himself to prevent acts of violence being committed on the persons and property of French subjects in Mexico, for which he had received the thanks of the French commander. The whole effect of the noble Lord's argument seemed to be, that the British Government ought not to have permitted the blockade of Mexico; or, having permitted it, that the British Government ought now to declare, that that blockade should cease. But did the noble Lord mean openly to assert, that there was any thing in the quarrel between Mexico and France that would justify or make it expedient for the British Government to go to war with France in order to compel her to recede from her demands? If such a course had been pursued, he feared that the noble Lord's constituents would have complained of a greater amount of inconvenience than they now experienced from the state of blockade. Was it to be maintained, that when two powers proceeded to hostilities, England should interfere, and because her commerce was thereby affected by a warfare, put down with a high hand the state of warfare? That might be a very proper doctrine for a country so all-powerful as England to hold, but the question was, would it be just to act upon the principle which it contained, and if it was acted upon, would not a weaker state have a right to say, that we were using unjustly a giant's power? Suppose this country had a just ground of complaint against another nation, and that it was deemed necessary to go to war, in order to enforce redress, what would they think if 907 France said, "Hold your hand, you must not go to war," and endeavoured, by force, to compel them to maintain peace? Such language and conduct on the part of France would be resented as insulting to England, and he was sure, that there was no Gentleman in that House who would not support the Government in resenting such language, and in throwing back on France the menace which that country had dared to use. With regard to the charge against the Government, of having no ships upon the station during the invasion of Mexico, he must say, that that charge was not well grounded, for the British ships had watched the progress of the blockade, and those ships, as had been shown on a former occasion by the Secretary of the Admiralty, had received orders from the Government, which had been fully carried into effect. In September they were informed, that a large French force was going out to Mexico, and that it was probable, that hostilities would be commenced against San Juan ďUlloa, and the Government had, therefore, sent out a larger naval force—not to force the French to abandon hostilities, for that would have been to commence war between France and England, but in order to give a greater moral weight to the negotiations which were carrying on, and which the right hon. Baronet opposite seemed to treat with derision, although they had been treated very differently in another place. If that addition to our naval force had been sent out to protect San Juan ďUlloa, he admitted that it had arrived too late. But that was not the object in view, and the force which was sent out was not too late for the purpose which the Government had in view, and he trusted the efforts which were making to effect an accommodation of the differences between France and Mexico would be attended with perfect success. He would not hesitate to assert, that the argument of the noble Lord, if it was good for any thing, went much further than the noble Lord had carried it, The noble Lord must either contend, that England ought not to have permitted the blockade, or he must allow, that France had a perfect right to establish that blockade, and that England was not at liberty to do any thing more than to endeavour by her good offices to establish peace between the belligerent parties, With regard to the question of blockade, he must say, that England was not the power which ought to question the practice of blockade. He had in his pocket a list of between 908 forty and fifty blockades established by England during the last war. [Heard.][Sir R. Peel: Yes, in a time of war] Certainly, during the war; but the state between France and Mexico was a state of war; and did the right holt, Baronet think, that England had never established a blockade without a formal declaration of war? The cheer, therefore, of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, went for nothing. The French Government had a right to establish a blockade, and as long as there was a sufficient force to make that blockade effectual, any ship attempting to break through it must do so at its own proper risk. The noble Lord had complained of the mode in which he (Lord Palmerston) had received those persons who had presented memorials on the subject of the blockade. Now he could assure the noble Lord and the House that nothing was further from his intention than to treat with any thing like want of respect the parties who had applied to him, and whose interests were deeply involved in the question. He was well aware of the high respectability of those parties, and that they were, on personal considerations, entitled to be treated with frankness and candour; but with regard to very delicate transactions with foreign Powers, it certainly was not his duty to go into any explanations with those parties as to what the Government was doing, or what it intended to do. Had he done so his answers would, he well knew, have appeared next day in all the newspapers, and he, without meaning it, might thus, from the way in which those answers would have been reported and commented upon, have led other parties into embarrassment in their commercial transactions, anti so committed the country as he had no right to commit it. He was sure, that the noble Lord and the parties who had applied to him would acquit him of intentional disrespect, and that those to whom answers had been sent would see that he, as a Minister of the Crown, ought not to have told them what the hopes, and fears, and views of the Government were with respect to the conduct of France towards Mexico. The noble Lord had brought another charge against the Government with respect to specie. The noble Lord said, that the Government neglected the interests of the British merchants, and that it was not till they were applied to by the English merchants, that the Government had sought from France a relaxation of the rules of the blockade as 909 respected specie, although permission to import specie had been granted to the Americans. Now, when the French Government instituted the blockade, they were entitled to make it perfect and compulsory, but although such was their undoubted right, they had said that, out of respect for England, and in consideration of the Post-office regulations which had recently been agreed on between the two countries, they would except the Post-office packets of England, and, in regard to them, would not enforce the strict rules of the blockade. Of course, however, it was to be understood, that those packets were only to carry letters, and that they were not to take on board or to land any merchandise on which duty was levied by the Mexican Government, because, by so doing, they would have increased the revenues of that power, and given them additional means of carrying on hostilities against France. When, however, it was stated to the Government that an indulgence had been granted by France to the Americans with regard to specie, the Government of this country had applied to the French Government, and obtained a similar indulgence for the merchants of England. So far, therefore, was this transaction from being a proof of the imputation which had been cast upon the Government, of favouring other nations to the detriment of our own merchants, it showed, on the contrary, that the Government had paid immediate attention to the representations which had been made to them, and that they had obtained from France a greater degree of concession than had been extended to any other nation. He most positively denied, that there had been any want of attention on the part of the Government to the commercial interests of the country, and he would assert, that they had laboured assiduously to put an end to a contest between other powers which was injurious to the interests of England, and to effect an accommodation between France and Mexico. When the noble Lord said, that this war between France and Mexico explained the falling-off which he stated to have taken place in the revenue of England, he defied the noble Lord to prove that position, and on this point he would refer the noble Lord to the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, who, by returns which he had brought forward on a late occasion, would prove to his satisfaction that in 1838, the year of the blockade, the commerce of England had greatly increased, and that, in 910 truth, it had not been attended with any injurious effects on the revenues of thin country.
§ Mr. E. Tennent
wished to move an amendment for further papers illustrative of the nature of French proceedings. It was a startling fact, that France within the last twelve months, and during a period of profound peace, should have possessed herself, by blockade or forcible occupation, of upwards of 2,000 miles of the eastern coast of South America, including the entire Gulf of Mexico, with its important sea-ports, and the two greatest navigable rivers in the universe, the Amazons and La Plata. As to the political objects of France in such a movement, or her motives, beyond what might be immediately ostensible—whether of permanent conquest, which she disclaimed, or a desire to withdraw the attention of her subjects from matters nearer home, he (Mr. E. Tennent) was not disposed then to speculate; but the main point on which his constituents and the mercantile interests of the empire at large were vitally concerned was not merely the injury or interruption, but the actual suspension and paralysis, of all commerce with South America, which had resulted from the military operations of France upon her coasts. He said the trade with America generally, for, although Mexico and Buenos Ayres were the points nominally assailed, the injury inflicted was not confined to those points alone, but extended to New Orleans and Havannah, on the Atlantic, and to Valparaiso and Lima, on the Pacific, which formerly received our exports for re-shipment to the Gulf and the La Plata, but which being now equally excluded with ourselves no longer exhibited a demand for our produce. The broad principles on which Great Britain had always maintained the right of blockade—a latitude which, to say the least, had not been circumscribed by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Palmerston) in his correspondence with the Mexican men, chants—rendered it imperative on this country at all times to see that our trade was not interrupted upon frivolous pretences, or at the caprice of parties who wanted either the power or the inclination to bring their causes of complaint to a speedy adjustment. And looking at the whole circumstances of the recent French aggressions in South America—not in Mexico alone, but its Buenos Ayres 911 and in Brazil—he was bound to say, that he had never yet met with a case which could less bear the test of such a scrutiny, or in which weak and fraudulent grounds of quarrel had been followed up with greater arrogance and bad faith. Only look at the relative circumstances of the parties. The grounds of quarrel with Mexico sprung originally out of the positive weakness of that young and disturbed State; and the demand for reparation had been followed up by France with all the pertinacity of a designing Power, conscious of its own overwhelming strength. The original demand urged by France was for compensation to French subjects for injuries alleged to have been sustained by them during an insurrection at Mexico in the year 1828, ten years ago; and although the amount originally demanded was but 122,590 dollars, some idea might be formed of the base principle on which the indemnity must have been estimated when no less a sum than 74,000 dollars, or about 16,000l. sterling, out of the amount, was awarded to one French bookseller, as compensation for books stated by him to have been carried off by the rioters; and another item was a sum of 20,000 dollars, or about 4,000l. to a pastry-cook for sweetmeats devoured by the soldiers during the tumult! The matter lay over unsettled from that period till 1836, but in 1836 the Baron Deffaudis arrived in the Gulf as the Minister Plenipotentiary of France, followed by a formidable naval force. The claim then suddenly expanded from 120,000 to 170,000 dollars and during the two years of fruitless negotiation which ensued it amounted to the immense sum of 600,000 dollars, by the admission of every claimant who chose to prefer his complaint of losses to the French authorities. Whatever delay there might have been originally created by the Mexican government, further postponement became impossible so soon as a formidable French force was anchored in their roadstead, and they at once admitted the principle of the injuries alleged, and proposed to refer the amount of compensation to a commission, formed half of Mexicans and half of French subjects. This proposition was rejected by M. Deffaudis. The Mexicans then entreated him to admit the intermediation of any disinterested Power, and America and England were each under- 912 stood to have offered their interference; but even this proposal was contumeliously rejected, and M. Deffaudis, in his ultimatum, addressed to the Mexican authorities in March, 1838, designated it as:—The ridiculous proposition of submitting to the arbitration of a third power, as if France was treating of those ordinary questions of doctrines or interests upon which doubts might exist; or, as if the dignity and duties of France could ever permit her to leave to a third party, the case of deciding whether the plunders, the violences, and the assassinations, of which her citizens had been the victims, were, or were not, the subject of sufficient reparation.But, surely, when the question to be arbitrated was a pecuniary equivalent for a civil injury, the amount of that compensation, as in the case of the bookseller and the pastry cook, might have been considered, without offence to the dignity of France, a fit subject for disinterested calculation. So far, however, from submitting to so fair an arbitrament, the Baron delivered, in the same document, the final terms of his demand as computed up to that date, his rapacity apparently increasing with every submission of Mexico. The amount then claimed was, as stated by Lord Sandon, 600,000 dollars for claims then ascertained, the absolute distribution of which France reserved to herself treble that sum, or 1,800,000 dollars, for claims not yet investigated, but to be brought forward forthwith; and 200,000 dollars for the costs of the expedition to enforce the demand. And even this monstrous exaction was not to be permitted to be paid unless on the terms of Mexico admitting France to fresh commercial privileges, which, it was well known, she could not comply with, without violating existing treaties with other states; and delivering up her officials and judges, against whom charges of the most infamous kind had been adduced, to be tried as robbers and assassins. This proposition of the French minister concluded as follows;—Such are the demands which the undersigned is charged to address once, and for the last time, to the Mexican government—inasmuch as the present note is an ultimatum, and the determination of France, herein contained, is irrevocable. The undersigned will wait for an answer until the 15th of April. Should (which God forbid) the answer be in the negative, upon only one point—should even be 913 doubtful upon only one point—should it, finally, be delayed beyond the 15th of April, the undersigned must then immediately place the conclusion of this affair in the hands of M. Bazoche, commander of his Majesty's naval forces, of which a division is at present on the coast of Mexico; and this superior officer will put in force the orders he has already received.M. Deffaudis, was speedily superseded by Admiral Baudin with a formidable naval force, which arrived from Brest in October last year; and, after a few preliminary forms, of pretended negotiation, hostilities commenced, by the bombardment and capture of the island fortress of San Juan ďUlloa and the subsequent reduction of Vera Cruz; and, to this hour, France held possession of the entire gulf of Mexico, from the mouth of the Mississipi to the bay of Campeachy, with the sole exception, he believed, of Tampico, which being in insurrection against the Mexican government,, was supposed to have some sympathy with the invaders. Not one package of goods shipped from this country to Mexico in the year 1838 had been permitted to be landed in the ordinary way, and in January last, at the period when the last advices left, no less than 30 British vessels were hovering off the gulf, with English goods on board to the value of no less than 750,000l. And whilst the French professed, that this was only a temporary step, to secure the just compliance with their demands, their government has actually sent out M. Vaillant as governor of the fortress of San Juan ďUlloa, and the adjacent district of Vera Cruz. He (Mr. E. Tennent) would not have called the attention of the House to these details on Mexico, were it not for the purpose of exhibiting the striking similarity of proceeding and apparent identity of purpose with which France had attacked the other states of South America upon equally frivolous grounds, and still held possession of their territory with equal pertinacity. Her assault upon Buenos Ayres originated in the most unfounded assumptions. She demanded satisfaction from the Argentine confederation for the alleged false imprisonment of French subjects; and, secondly, for their forcible enrolment in the state militia. It was demonstrated to her in reply, that not one single solitary subject of France was enrolled in the forces of Buenos Ayres, and that two alone were incarcerated in her prisons—one a sutler on a charge of 914 robbery, and the other a soldier, he believed, who was condemned for assassination. Even after this satisfactory explanation, Admiral Le Blanc, in April, 1838, persisted in directing his forces to the mouth of the river La Plata, took possession of the island of Martin Garcia, and, to this hour, enforced a strict blockade, to the utter exclusion of all European commerce. But not only had France thus excluded us from the profitable trade of the La Plata and the Gulf of Mexico, but on another, and, if possible, a still less tenable ground, she had recently taken forcible occupation, and. to this hour, holds possession of the entire territory of Brazilian Guiana, on no other pretence, and by no other authority, than an alleged inaccuracy in the wording of the Treaty of Utrecht, which, it is asserted, describes inaccurarely the relative boundaries of French and Portuguese Guiana. That such an error, that a geographical error, did exist in the wording of the treaty of Utrecht, on this point, there could be no manner of doubt; but it was also equally certain that it was a matter of easy adjustment; and, by the terms of the treaty of Paris, in 1817, it was expressly determined, that commissioners should be mutually appointed to determine the boundary; and that if at the expiration of one year they should not be able to come to an understanding, "the two contracting parties should proceed by friendly accord to form another arrangement under the mediation of Great Britain, and conformably to the Treaty of Utrecht, concluded under the guarantee of that power."The facts of the case were, that France, in 1837, sent an armament to the mouth of the Amazons, took possession of the island of Mapa, an important station, commanding the entrance of the river, and being joined and supported by the Indians and natives, made a forcible landing on the main, and have continued ever since in actual possession, not only of the disputed points, but of the entire territory of Brazilian Guiana, a territory proverbially the richest in South America, with a coast line of 300 miles towards the Atlantic, and extending westward for 1,500 miles along the shores of the Amazons, till it meets the confines of Peru and Colombia and comprising vast districts, traversed by innumerable navigable rivers, which open thousands of miles of the most productive country. This was a proceeding on the 915 part of France which had, as yet, attracted but little attention in this country; but he should like to know from the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whether that occupation had been made by France in pursuance of the terms and in conformity with the provisions of the treaty of Paris? Whether it was with the concurrence of the government of Brazil? And finally, whether it had taken place after the mediation and under the sanction of Great Britain? On the score of its importance to British commerce, it did appear to him that it was impossible to over-estimate the interest of these questions. And the injury inflicted was severely felt by those merchants and manufacturers who had been now for twelve months shut out from their once extensive trade with South America. Large shipments designed for Buenos Ayres and Mexico, had, on the commencement of hostilities, been sent borne undelivered, with the entire loss of freight and interest, and the danger of forfeited insurance. Our manufactures at home were also likely to suffer. Logwood, which was formerly brought in great quantities from Laguna de Terminos in the bay of Campeachy, had, of course ceased to be shipped to England, although not a single French vessel of war had been at Laguna since the 18th of May, 1838, when the blockade was declared. The consequence was, that this article, which ordinarily sold for 8l. per ton, was now so high as 24l. in Manchester, and his informant apprised him that the calico printers had actually to stop their works in those styles which required that particular dye, as the market could neither afford the necessary supply of logwood, nor an adequate remuneration at the present prices for the work if produced. The enormous British capital lent to the Mexican government, or embarked in mining speculations in that country, amounting to ten millions sterling, had been placed in the utmost peril by the interruption of the Custom House receipts on which the loans were secured, and, by the prohibition of importing quicksilver, without which the mines could not be worked. And what added to the irritation of the matter was the fact, that this exclusion seemed now to be directed almost exclusively against ourselves, a report having been lately prevalent that American vessels had recently been permitted to pass the blockade into Mexican ports, whilst those of 916 England alone were refused permission. Indeed, he could not afford a more perfect illustration of the perplexity in which British merchants were involved by these proceedings, than the evidence of a card, under the tempting promise of sailing under French colours: a French ship, the Admiral Preville, Jacques Fauvel, master, was advertised as lying in the London Docks for freight and passengers to Vera Cruz. And if he (Mr. Tennent) was rightly informed, an opulent gentleman, formerly a Member of that House, had actually chartered her for the Gulf of Mexico, where, at present, on the showing of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Palmerston), a British merchantman durst not show herself even for the purpose of ascertaining the raising or continuance of the French blockade. There was another subject, connected in some degree with these affairs on which he was anxious to obtain information from the noble Lord opposite, (Lord Palmerston). The noble Lord would recollect that by an insurrection against the Brazilian government in 1835, the British residents at Para had been most serious sufferers to the amount, he believed of 80,000l. to 100,000l. A demand for indemnification had been made by our Minister, Mr. Hamilton, then resident at Rio Janeiro, but refused by the authorities of Brazil. The opinion of the law officers of England being, however, in favour of the claim, Mr. Hamilton was, as he (Mr. Tennent) understood, directed to press for compliance, which, up to Mr. Hamilton's return to this country last year, had been ineffectual. Mr. Ousely had since gone out as Minister to the Court of Brazil, and he (Mr. Tennent) understood that he was to have taken with him instructions on this head from the noble Lord; but by advices received from Rio since Mr. Ousely arrived, it appeared that he had not been furnished with those instructions previous to his departure, and that up to that period they had not been received from England. He would be glad to know, whether those instructions had been issued and acted upon, and with what result? and he should conclude by moving, in addition to the papers sought by the noble Lord relative to Mexico and Buenos Ayres, for, "copies of any communications received from the government of France or that of Brazil, relative to the claims advanced by the latter to a portion of Portuguese Guiana; and of any refer- 917 ence sought by either party to the arbitration of England (conformably to the terms of the Treaty of Paris, in 1817), previous to the recent military occupation of Portuguese Guiana by a French farce; also, copies of any despatches or correspondence from the British minister resident at Rio Janeiro, on the subject of the indemnification of British subjects resident at Para, for losses sustained during the insurrectionary movements against the Brazilian government in 1835."
§ Mr. Grote
said, that he owed it to a very numerous body of petitioners, who had intrusted him with a petition on the subject this day, and also to the feeling which he knew to be extensively prevalent among a considerable part of the mercantile constituency he represented, to say a very few words on the subject before the House. No man was less disposed than he was to multiply or carve out unnecessary opportunities for criticising the conduct of the executive Government with respect to its foreign policy. But although he recognised the propriety of exercising great forbearance on that subject, yet he must say he was not prepared to draw the line so strictly as the noble Lord. He was not prepared to abstain from making those criticisms which on certain occasions that conduct seemed to require. Although he perfectly felt the necessity of looking at the world as one great whole, and of speaking of existing circumstances under the conviction that what was said in London was read at Paris and at Washington—a circumstance, by the by, which occasionally appeared to be lost sight of by some hon. Members—still, when the opinions of English merchants, who felt themselves to be seriously injured by the policy of the Government, were strongly expressed, it was absolutely necessary that they should find an echo in that House. There were three points about this case which rendered it impossible for those suffering from the present state of affairs in Mexico to remain silent. First, the extent of the inconvenience which they suffered; next, the conviction, which appeared to be thoroughly well grounded, the moment we looked into the nature of the complaint preferred, that the blockade enforced against Buenos Ayres and Mexico did not repose on any solid or well-grounded causes of complaint; and, thirdly, that there had been 918 what he could not but call a want of alacrity on the part of the Government to extend protection to the English merchants by not keeping up that amount of naval force which the circumstance required. As to the extent of the injury which had been sustained by the English merchants, he was almost prevented from going into that subject, because the noble Lord who brought this motion forward had so fully addressed himself on that point. There was a roost extensive amount of British capital embarked in the American states. No less than seven large mining establishments were conducted altogether by British capital, and which mines furnished, he believed, nearly the whole supply of silver which now came to England; and that supply, he was informed, amounted to from eight millions to ten millions of dollars annually, while the imports from Buenos Ayres was not less in value than 700,000l. annually. The whole of this trade had been entirely put a stop to by the blockade of Vera Cruz and Buenos Ayres. Moreover, those persons who had sent out manufactured goods to those countries had sustained very considerable loss, from their vessels having been warned off, in consequence of which the whole venture was rendered entirely valueless. Under these circumstances it seemed to him both natural and unavoidable that the merchants, who had been subject to such inconvenience, should try to investigate the cause, and should express a desire to know whether there was a sufficient justification for the French Government to impose upon them the extreme inconvenience they had sustained. He could not wonder, when they looked at the cause of quarrel between the French Government and the Governments of Mexico and Buenos Ayres, that they complained not only that they suffered great loss, but that they suffered it without any solid or well-grounded international reason. It seemed to him that the French Government had throughout their dispute with those two States mixed up with their demand of redress for an alleged gone-by private wrong, an attempt to establish certain principles for the future. This, he thought, was conduct altogether inadmissible and unaccountable. The conduct of the French in respect to the blockade against Mexico appeared to the British merchants still more singular, and still less explicable, when they were informed that with regard 919 to the port of Callao on the eastern coast of America, they were acting upon totally different principles. The French commander on that coast had refused to recognise an efficient blockade, established by the Government of Chili, and had actually taken into that port French and Chilian merchant-vessels, although there was a sufficient Chilian force there. This certainly did show that the French naval commanders were not disposed to acknowledge the same rule when they made a case for themselves, which they enforced when they made a case against others. In regard to the protection which might have been afforded to our trade with Mexico by means which were in the power of the executive Government to have offered, he could not but think that if that had been done two months sooner, which had now been done, for instance, the arrival of Mr. Pakenham, instead of being towards the end of December, had been towards the end of October, Mexico would not have been in the position in which it was at present placed; and that the conference which was held would have terminated successfully and prosperously for British commerce, and the questions in dispute would have been amicably adjusted if Commodore Douglas had appeared earlier with his fleet off the coast. The French expedition sailed from Brest on the 13th of September, and arrived at Vera Cruz on the 25th of October, whereas Mr. Pakenham arrived on the 25th of December, and Commodore Douglas on the 31st of December. It was much to be regretted that the arrival both of Mr. Pakenham and Commodore Douglas did not take place two months earlier. The conduct of France in refusing to submit the matter in dispute between herself and the two American Governments to a third and independent party, was a circumstance not to be overlooked in the present state of affairs—a circumstance, as it seemed to him, well calculated to have added greatly and bitterly to the losses that the English merchants had suffered under. When he recollected that in the case of the disagreement between the French Government and the United States of America, France without any dishonour to herself, referred for settlement to the arbitration of England—a matter which had been longer pending than the matter in dispute between France and Mexico, and it did seem to argue a want of uniformity and consistency on the 920 part of the French Government, which certainly on the present occasion, and which, attended as it had been by deplorable consequences to British merchants, could not but meet with remark in this House. The noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, had said, "Why, you are not prepared to go to war with France!" and he held out certain alarming prospects on this subject; and argued that the British Government could not do more than it had done, unless we were prepared to go to war and resist this blockade. Now he (Mr. Grote) could not admit that the noble Lord was entitled to assume this position, or that he was entitled, as he had done in this argument, to suppose that English modern intervention would have been so totally without effect as he seemed to imagine. It seemed to him, reasoning from the papers that were before the House, and with an imperfect knowledge of what the noble Lord had or had not done with the French Government, that if the noble Lord had at an early period instituted an inquiry into the circumstances which had since led to this blockade, in a sufficiently energetic and decided manner, the disposition on the part of the French Government to resist it would have been much less strenuous than the noble Lord seemed to apprehend. He should not have taken part in this debate if he had not considered the question one of great importance, more especially to a large portion of his own constituents. He hoped that the news which had appeared within the last day or two in the newspapers of the intention on the part of the French to raise the blockade, and of a prospect of an amicable settlement by Admiral Baudin consenting to accept the mediation of the English Ambassador would prove true, and that British commerce would be placed in that state of security which it formerly enjoyed.
§ Sir Stephen Lushington
Assuming that the information before the House was correct, and gave a fair view of the circumstances of the question connected with the motion of the noble Lord, and that the House was in possession of the more important facts on both sides, he must confess (from all he knew) that he could not view the conduct of the French Government, whether with respect to their proceedings in the Gulf of Mexico, or with respect to their very extraordinary 921 conduct at the port of Callao, on the other side of the American coast, without the deepest regret, and he must declare without some feelings of alarm. The conduct of the French Government had been such, that if not sufficient to excite the jealousy of her Majesty's Government, was at least enough to call forth, on the part of that House, the strictest vigilance. He entirely agreed in many of the observations which had fallen from the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool (Lord Sandon), and concurred with him in the opinion, that the most unjustifiable pretences had been set up by the French Government, and that claims had been made by that Government against the state of Buenos Ayres, which they never would have ventured to have made against any country that was competent to defend itself. He had never yet heard that it was a matter of absolute right that the inhabitants of one country lived in another country, receiving the aid and protection of its laws. He always thought it was a permission to be conceded upon terms, and according to the discretion of the country which gave that permission. Above all things, he never yet before heard, that in affairs between nations it was to be permitted for one State to say to another, "I will have a commercial treaty from you, whether you will or not. You are not to be the judge of your own advantage, and what suits your own convenience. You are not to exercise the first, greatest, and most important right which appertains to an independent State, that of making treaties of commerce according to your own judgment." And was France to say—"You must not deny me that treaty of commerce. I am not to be treated as a second-rate Power; I will insist upon the treaty as a right?" He confessed, that he viewed this matter with great suspicion. It was now for the first time, in all his knowledge of the history of modern days, that he had known any State boldly and openly stand up and put forth such pretensions as France had ventured to do. He thought it his duty to say thus much, because he was of opinion, that that which he most deeply sought for, and most earnestly hoped would remain, namely, pacific relations between this country and France would be best advanced by speaking the truth, and letting the French nation know what was the general feeling of 922 the British people. He meant to use no language of provocation. He recollected the words of his hon. Friend, that what was spoken in that House was soon known not only in London, but at Paris and at Washington. Whenever he spoke of the state of the public relations of this country with others, though he must claim it as a privilege to speak of them, yet he would never, to the utmost of his power, allow any feelings of his to induce him to use language that might by possibility in the remotest degree affect the amicable relations of the world. His noble friend undoubtedly had laid down restrictions which it might be perfectly right and fit for him to abide by as Secretary of State. He said that with regard to the conduct of one foreign nation towards another, it might be inconvenient to discuss it here, because the party inculpated was not present to defend it. It would be very inconvenient for his noble Friend, no doubt, in his public situation to express any decided opinion on such conduct, yet, nevertheless, it was not only the right but the duty of that House to do so. It would seldom occur that a foreign State would not be adequately defended in Parliament; such were the conflicting opinions that usually prevailed among them. But it was a right which, though to be dealt with scrupulously, was the last to be forgotten. He never would give up his right to declare his opinion of the conduct of Russia with respect to Poland, of the conduct of Austria with respect to Italy, or of the conduct of France with respect to Mexico, or any other State in the civilised world. He hoped he should never abuse it, but it was a right too valuable to be for a moment compromised. Now, let it be considered in what manner that right was connected with the dearest and best interests of England. It seldom happened that any dispute arose between one foreign nation and another in which the interests of England were not either directly or indirectly concerned, and often more or lets injured. But did he therefore say, "Go to war?" Did he preach a general crusade? No such thing. But there was a limit to all things. Now, the pretences with respect to Buenos Ayres, which France had set up, in justification of her conduct, were frivolous and unfounded. Let them mark what might be the conduct of France if that power were 923 determined to injure the commerce of this country. Not only might it blockade Mexico and Buenos Ayres, but it might blockade every port in the world with which England carried on trade upon similar frivolous pretences, and thus effectually destroy British commerce altogether. He was not urging but deprecating any attempts to bring about a war, except in a case of extreme necessity, by making these observations. With regard to the question of blockade, it was one of very great importance in relation to this country. His noble Friend had said that in his researches into the history and law of nations, he had found no instance in which a blockade was asserted by neutral countries except the blockade was between two belligerent powers. In all his (Sir Stephen Lushington's) reading too upon this subject, he had always found a blockade to be instituted when nations were in a state of war with each other. But here they would get, he feared, into considerable confusion, because nothing perhaps was more dangerous than to attempt to define precisely what that was which constituted absolute war between two countries. In former days (he knew not whether it was a good or a better practice), but prior to the last fifty or sixty years, the usage was to have a declaration of war before the commencement of hostilities; by which notice was given to the whole world that the relations between those countries had been altered. But he could not say so any longer. The usage of the world was altered, and it was now impossible to charge any nation with a breach of the law of nations because hostilities had not been preceded by a declaration of war. The noble Lord had stated; that the relations between France and Mexico were in reality those of war. Where a nation was at war with another it had a right to make reprisals: but this she must not do—which France had done, and in so doing had violated the usages of nations—she must not, she is not at liberty to avail herself of all the advantages of peace and amicable relations on the one part with a third Power, and expose that third Power to all the disadvantages of war on the other. He would give no particular opinion whether France was or was not at war with Mexico. How stood the notification? His noble Friend had given a satisfactory explanation to the House on that point, that the uniform practice was to give the merchants of any country whose 924 interests would be affected by such a state of things, notice of the fact, but that notification did not sanction the blockade nor establish its legality. They were not called upon to judge of the consequences of the facts. It was the business of any Government to whom such intimation had been made, to notify the same to the subjects of that State; but it was in the discretion of the parties to whom the intimation was made what effect they would give to the announcement, and to judge how their commercial proceedings would thereby be influenced. These rights were of the greatest value, and they were common to all nations. There was not one law affecting other countries and a different law applicable to England. Vessels belonging to this country might, under these circumstances, enter a port which had been notified as under blockade, and might under these circumstances be detained by the blockading force. And it was plain that such a seizure would not, at least until all other remedies had been tried, justify a recourse to arms. Fault had been found with his noble Friend by the noble Lord opposite, that although he had received information of the blockade not having been duly maintained, that he had not notified the circumstance, and founding upon an opinion which he drew from Lord Stowell, the noble Lord had stated that if a blockade was not maintained in such a form as to make it dangerous for any vessel to enter the blockaded port, that then the blockade could not be maintained, as it had not been supported by an adequate force. To talk of a blockade proclaimed as extending over a whole district, and of being in force when the blockading force had been absent for several months, would, no doubt, be vague, nugatory and absurd. The only cases of exception that were allowed in such cases were stress of weather and storms. But suppose that his noble Friend had sent intimation to the merchants of this country that the blockade had not been duly maintained, and that twenty or thirty ships had, in consequence, been dispatched to Vera Cruz, and found on their arrival there that they could not gain admission to the harbour, and had been thus compelled to come back without delivering their cargoes, what would have been said of the conduct of his noble Friend? He entirely approved of the course which his noble Friend had adopted under the 925 circumstances of the case; he thought that he had acted with great prudence, for it was surely the duty of our foreign Minister not to take upon himself responsibility without duly considering the consequences which might ensue. It was also said that his noble Friend had answered the complaints made by the noble Lord and other hon. Members who had taken part in this debate of the loss sustained by British commerce, that they had no alternative but to go to war. He did not understand that to be the real statement of his noble Friend. He did not understand his noble Friend to say by any means that there was no middle course. Whether the noble Lord opposite made his charge against his noble friend from access he may have had-to documents in Downing-street he could not say, but certainly in his opinion there was a distinct middle course open for her Majesty's Government. It was the duty of the Government in the first place to remonstrate with the French Government to represent to them the injury which British commerce had received, to tell them that it was undergoing the greatest deprivation, and to say to them boldly and plainly, that the Government of this country expected prompt satisfaction and redress. He could not take upon himself to say, whether his noble Friend had made these representations. He did not think it would be proper or consistent with the public interest to press upon his noble Friend for a direct answer to that question. It would be extremely inconvenient to call for such explanations, when they had been told by his noble Friend, that negotiations were depending on this question with the Government of France, and he was confident, that under these circumstances, no one would call upon her Majesty's Government to disclose the nature of the correspondence that was in progress. He did not quarrel with the noble Lord and hon. Members opposite as to what they argued the duty of the Government was in this case; but he did find fault with them for this—they had all assumed, that the Government had adopted a different line of conduct from that which they believed to be the proper course. He entirely approved, for his own part, of the caution which the noble Lord had evinced. He had the honour to represent as great a commercial community as the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, and he 926 was confident that his constituents would agree with him, when he said, that in cases where he could not rely on specific facts, he would endeavour to confine himself to simple acknowledgments. It was particularly necessary for the noble Lord to act on this principle, and not to go beyond the mere acknowledgment of what could not be disputed; because, in this great commercial country, where there was so much rivalship and competition, every communication the noble Lord could write would be spelt, letter by letter, to endeavour to find out some little scintilla which would induce them to enter upon some speculation. He begged to remind hon. Members, that his noble Friend had stated, that his object was to make that impression on the French Government which truth and justice demanded. He was also sure, that nothing which had been said by any hon. Member during the course of this debate could be represented as conveying any feeling of hostility towards the conveying Government. They merely asked that government to reconsider—to retrace—their steps, and to give redress where they had good grounds for saying that the French were to blame. He considered, that the preservation of the alliance between this country and France was the great safeguard of the peace of Europe. He thought it essential to the prosperity and mutual interests of both countries, that the friendly intercourse which had now happily been established between them should be encouraged and maintained. They only desired to let the French Government know, that they were wide awake—that they had a full desire to accomplish their object by recourse to all conciliatory measures; but, at the same time, they were resolved to have what justice and their rights required.
§ Mr. Alderman Thompson
felt called upon to say a few words on the subject before the House. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Palmerston) had said, that the commercial interests had no right to complain of the blockade on the coast of Mexico, and that he, on the part of the Government, had done all that was required, and that a sufficient force had been provided in the Gulf of Mexico to protect the persons and properties of British subjects. To these propositions he (Mr. Alderman Thompson) dissented, and thought he should be able to show, that 927 the noble Lord was mistaken. He held in his hand a letter from a British merchant who was at Vera Cruz at the time of the bombardment of San Juan ďUlloa. The letter was addressed to his partner, and bore date the 27th of November, the day of the attack. It stated, that the Express packed arrived that day, that her Majesty's sloop the Satellite had arrived on the 25th, that at the instance of several British merchants, her commander had been induced to remain for one day, but stated, that he could not possibly remain any longer. "Look," said the writer of the letter, "at our unfortunate condition! See how utterly we are deserted by the British Government! We are without even a boat to enable us to get on board the packet." The letter proceeds to state, that through the assistance of the French Consul, a boat was procured at Sacrificios for that purpose. It further stated, that the United States had no fewer than three ships of war on that station, while England had not one. "The American vessels offered their services to us. What a position for British subjects to be placed in! Don't let this pass unnoticed." The hon. Gentleman then read another extract from a letter written by the same individual on board the Express packet, on the evening of the same day, which stated, that the Satellite would sail the next day, and, that then there would be only a miserable packet to represent the British nation in that quarter. He thought, that he had supplied to the House a very satisfactory answer to the noble Lord's statement, that the merchants of this country had nothing whatever to complain of on the score of the transaction alluded to. With regard to another statement of the noble Lord, that the Commodore of the West India station was authorized to send a force to Vera Cruz, he (Alderman Thompson) had authority to state, that the Satellite was sent by the Governor of Jamaica solely for the purpose of transporting specie. And, in confirmation of this view, he would mention that the commander of the Satellite stated, in reply to the application of the British residents at Vera Cruz, that "he would stay until to-morrow, the 28th, but that he could not stay longer, as he would not be acting in accordance with his instructions." The noble Lord had spoken in high terms of Mr. Ashburnham's services. What were the facts? The French Ad- 928 miral insisted on being paid the full amount of the original claim, being 600,000 dollars in compensation for alleged injuries inflicted on French subjects, and 200,000 dollars more "to pay the expenses." This entire sum of 800,000 dollars he required them to pay within fifteen days, the alternative being, that he would bombard Vera Cruz. What evidence had they of the efforts used by Mr. Ashburnham to settle these important differences? At all events, whatever interference he resorted to appeared to have been wholly unsuccessful. With regard to the French claims, he would observe, that the amount of 600,000 dollars appeared to be merely assumed. A portion of the claim was for alleged injuries to a Dr. Dulong, who had been notoriously intriguing for the situation of chief physician at Panama. He should wish to know, what the French would think of an English physician thrusting himself forward by such means for the post of principal physician to one of the Parisian hospitals? The noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, had boasted of his great exertions in behalf of the mercantile interests. It was unfortunate, that they should not be so sensible as the noble Lord desired of the merit of those services, and they should not have gratitude enough even to acknowledge them. The noble Lord had given no satisfactory proof that the important commercial interests of this country had been sufficiently cared for in this instance. And here he might observe, in passing, that no trade had been made more profitable to British merchants than the trade with the South American states. And no circumstance in modern times had been hailed with greater satisfaction than the announcement, when it was made in Parliament, that treaties had been formed with these independent states. From the mode in which these interests had been latterly neglected, he feared that the British merchant was likely to be deprived of these benefits for the future.
§ Mr. C. Wood
said, that the allusion which had been made to the conduct of the Admiralty rendered it necessary for him to trespass for a short time on the attention of the House. Neither the noble Lord who made the motion nor the hon. Gentleman, pretended to say, that any actual injury had been experienced by the British residents in Mexico from the want of pro- 929 tection by a British force? Neither of them pretended to say, that, in any one instance, anything more could have been done than was done, even if the whole British navy had been present. He would beg leave to state to the House what had been done since last spring by the Board of Admiralty for the protection of British interests in this part of the globe. At the end of April, the Board of Admiralty thought it necessary, for the protection of the interests of our commerce in that quarter, to send out a permanent officer of a higher rank than it had been customary to send previously; and Commodore Douglas accordingly proceeded to Jamaica, for the purpose of remaining there permanently to superintend the naval arrangements on that portion of the West Indian station. From the first of June last (exclusive of smaller vessels) he had at his disposal eight ships of war, and according to his report of the 14th August, there was a steam vessel besides. On the 25th September he reported, in addition to these, a frigate. At no period, up to the 1st of December, had he less than eight ships of war under his control. He could, therefore, have given most effective assistance, had he received any communication from Mexico that it was required. Had our consul at Vera Cruz or Tampico communicated with him to that effect, the assistance would have been immediately rendered. Neither he (Mr. Wood) nor any one else had ever said, that the Satellite had been sent to Vera Cruz, with the view of protecting British commercial interests there. What he had said was, that from the 16th of March, 1838, there had been a sloop of war always stationed in the Gulf of Mexico, now at Vera Cruz, now at Tampico, sometimes absent for a time to communicate with Havannah or the Commodore. The letter which had been read by the hon. Gentleman opposite, did not contain the slightest allusion to any injury as having been inflicted upon any of the British residents at Vera Cruz. The trepidation under which the writer of the letter appeared to labour was altogether unnecessary, as the bombardment of the castle of San Juan ďUlloa was well known to be the object which the French then had in view, and in consequence of the distance of the castle from the town, there was not the slightest danger to the inhabitants. The French had no object beyond that of reducing the castle. With reference to the application from the merchants which had been alluded to by the hon. 930 Gentleman, and the want of attention to their request, which was complained of, what was the case? The first application was received on the 31st of July. It complained of the want of protection to British trade, because several British vessels had been warned off by the French blockading squadron. This, at least, could not have been prevented by the presence of a British vessel, for it was only the ordinary course of a blockade. A request was also made, that orders might be given to the packets to bring away treasure on account of private merchants. The Admiralty, by letter of the 1st of August, informed them that a compliance with this request would be an infringement of an acknowledged blockade. There was surely no want of courtesy here. His noble Friend, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, was the same day made acquainted with the particulars of the memorial, and immediately communicated with the French Government, from whom, on the 13th of the same month, (almost by return of post) an answer was received, stating, that the transport of specie from Vera Cruz by the packet ships would be readily assented to, but that the forwarding of merchandise could not, of course, be permitted. This answer was immediately forwarded to the memorialists, and corresponding orders sent to the superintendent of packets. He could not see what ground there was here for the charge of treating these memorialists with any want of courtesy. The blockade of Callao had been alluded to, but that blockade was plainly inefficient—a mere paper blockade—while that of Mexico was, in all respects, effectual. This was, indeed, beyond all dispute, except during a short period when sickness, to which Europeans in that climate were very subject, prevailed. On the whole he must declare, that it was most erroneous to assert, that any practical injury to British interests had taken place in reference to this transaction.
§ Mr. Ward
thought, that the debate would be of great use, if its only practical result were to enforce the arguments which the Government of this country was bound to address to the Government of France with respect to the injury done to British interests by the course which that Government was now taking in Mexico. He could not help contrast-low the sound principles laid down by the Mexican government throughout the whole of this dispute with the exorbi- 931 tant, arrogant, and insulting tone assumed by the representative of France; nor could he help thinking that the commercial interests of this country were sacrificed without any sufficient cause, not to any substantial reason of complaint on the part of France, but to some imaginary claims which that nation urged, but which she refused to submit to any fair and impartial tribunal. One of the claims on the part of France was to dictate to the Government of Mexico a law authorizing French citizens at all times to exercise retail trade in Mexico. Another was a claim of 600,000 dollars for compensation in respect of injuries alleged to have been suffered by French subjects residing in Mexico. Now, the Mexican government had shown every disposition to act fairly with respect to both these demands. Rather than risk the continuation of hostilities they had offered to make a concession as to the amount claimed by the French, and, in point of fact, the French inhabitants of Mexico did exercise retail trade in Mexico, without any interference on the part of the Mexican government, and neither that government nor the congress had ever thought of prohibiting the French inhabitants from exercising retail trade. But when France claimed a right for her subjects to exercise such trade in Mexico, under all circumstances and in all time, that was a concession which Mexico refused to make. There was one more point to which he wished to advert: the mediation which had been offered and refused, but which there were now hopes of seeing accepted, seemed the only means of putting an end to the differences between France and Mexico which interfered so materially with our commerce; for it would be impossible for France to bring the contest to a practical issue. If the French took possession of the town of Vera Cruz they would be able to effect nothing; for that town was situated in the midst of a desert, all supplies had to be brought from a distance, and the whole population around would be in league against the foreigners in possession of Vera Cruz. Then the climate, which was such as an European constitution could not support, must render the French occupation very precarious; nor would the situation of the invaders be better if they penetrated into the interior of the country and reached the table land, 932 and even Mexico itself; they would there find a people of Spanish blood, not deficient in courage, who would effectually resist their attack. It was the duty, therefore of the noble Lord, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, to do every thing in his power to extricate Mexico from her embarrassments and to bring the dispute to a close. He could not be in a better position for that purpose than he was at present, for the honour of France had been satisfied, and every just concession had been made on the part of Mexico. If the motion were withdrawn it would be under the firm persuasion that the noble Lord would make use of the present opportunity, and, after the sentiments which had been in that debate expressed from all pasties in the House, the noble Lord could not fail to be successful when he made those representations, which he was bound to make, to the Government of France.
§ Lord Eliot
rose to make a few remarks on the observations which had fallen from the learned Doctor opposite (Sir S. Lushington), and to state briefly his opinion on the conduct of her Majesty's Government with respect to the proceedings connected with the Mexican blockade. That learned Gentleman had said, that any blockade to be real and legitimate must be effective in all points, and in this opinion he entirely concurred. Now, it appeared from a letter of the French Admiral Baudin, bearing date the 29th of November, that the blockade was not universal; and, indeed, it was clear, that the squadron there engaged could not effectually blockade a coast extending above 1,500 miles. He would protest, therefore, against an illegal exercise of a questionable right. He hoped, that the negotiation which, he understood, was on foot would speedily terminate the differences unhappily existing between France and Mexico; and he entertained this hope with a greater degree of confidence, because the negotiation between England and France, had been intrusted to her Majesty's representative in the latter country, than whom no man more able, no public servant more faithful, ever existed. He concurred in the importance of maintaining our amicable relations with France; but without any desire to interrupt these relations, it was the duty of that House to interfere whenever the honour and interests of Great Britain were at stake. He 933 thought the country was under great obligations to the noble Lord—for having brought the question forward; for the opinions which had been indiscriminately expressed on all sides of the House, would have the beneficial effect of strengthening the hands of the noble Viscount, and of enabling him to press with greater force the remonstrances which he had no doubt he would address to the French government.
§ Sir, De Lacy Evans
wished to offer an observation on one point connected with the debate. The learned Doctor, the Member for the Tower Hamlets, had observed, that whatever expressions might have been used in noticing the propriety of defending the interests of British commerce, he hoped, that nothing which took place that night might interfere with our friendly relations with France. He entirely concurred in the expression of that hope, and that appeared to be the universal feeling on the subject; but there was one matter, which must be his apology for addressing the House after the full discussion which the question had received on the subject. Some months back he had been in Paris, and there much had been said of the observations in the English public press regarding the blockade of Mexico. At that time the question was first brought forward. He afterwards had had the honour of an interview with one of the most influential statesmen of France, and it was with that eminent person an object of the greatest anxiety—an object which he wished especially to press on the Liberal party of this country—that in the discussions on that subject here, they should avoid indiscriminate application of the terms Government and France. These terms, however, had, throughout that discussion, been used indiscriminately by hon. Members, and the word France had been used as frequently as the Government of France. He had therefore, thought it right to mention that the influential individual to whom he had alluded, had expressed a desire, that they, in their discussions in this country, should draw a distinction between the policy of the government of the Cabinet of Count Molé, and the feelings of the people of France; and he felt assured, that whatever steps might be taken by the Governments, having a tendency to interrupt the amicable relations existing between the two countries, they would not be sanctioned by the feelings of the people at large.
§ Sir R. Peel
thought it had been truly remarked, that the subject under discussion had been exhausted in the present debate, and no speech had contributed in a greater degree to this result than the speech of the hon. Member for the city of London, which was a speech well worthy of the representative of that great mercantile constituency, and the speech of the hon. and learned civilian who had laid down the doctrines and principles of the law of nations with a clearness worthy of the sentiments embodied in that speech. The noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, had said, that the French government had fully satisfied him with regard to the French occupation of the Mexican territory—he had said, that the assurances given by the French government upon this subject were formal and satisfactory, and such as to allay any suspicion which might be entertained as to the future intentions of France. If these assurances were of that description, what possible objection could there be to producing them? The impression which the debate had produced on his mind was, that there was very little use in having either a British fleet or a British consul at a foreign station; for it had been contended, that however great a force we might have had in the Gulf of Mexico, it could have afforded no protection to British commerce in that part of the world. Then for what purpose did we maintain a peace establishment? He had thought it was for the protection of British commerce in all parts of the world. It appeared, that there was a large British force on the West India station for the protection of British commerce; in what manner was that force to act? Why it had been said, that a British commodore was stationed at Mexico, and he had power over eight ships of war in the West Indies, which he could command to the Gulf of Mexico if their presence was required; and that, because he had not called for them, it was clear, that no British interest was placed in danger. Now, consider in how difficult a situation that officer was placed; if he were called upon to decide upon his own authority what kind of demonstrations ought to be made towards France while he was left without any instructions from those who were better acquainted with the state of our relations with France, than this commodore could possibly be. Would he not depend upon receiving instructions 935 before it could be necessary for him to act? It was very hard to devolve upon this commodore the responsibility, which properly belonged to the government, who had the power and whose duty it was to send him instructions. The noble Lord who had brought forward the motion, had been represented, in the course of the debate, as having admitted, that in point of fact, British interests had sustained no injury. If the noble Lord admitted that, he did not agree with him; but that noble Lord had, as he (Sir R. Peel) understood, admitted no such thing. He had merely said, that it was not necessary for his argument that any injury should have been actually sustained. Now, the noble Lord had stated, that after the capture of San Juan ďUlloa, such alarm spread among the British residents at Vera Cruz, that all of them except the consul, left the town, and removed as far as they could from it, taking all their moveables. Then, he asked, when such alarms prevailed, what naval power had we upon the spot? He did not ask what force we had for the purpose of engaging in hostilities against France, or for the purpose of interfering with the blockade, but for the purpose of affording protection to our own subjects, which France herself would have permitted us to do. Why, thirty English had been protected by the British packet; thus assistance had been afforded by slight means, but if the city were abandoned by all the British, could it be maintained, that a single packet was sufficient for the station? Among the papers already presented, he found a letter dated July, addressed to the Lords of the Admiralty by persons deeply interested in the trade of Mexico, in which it was stated that captain Kirk, with a cargo of the value of 50,000l. had returned to Liverpool, having been warned by the French squadron. The captain was permitted to land at Vera Cruz, for the purpose of having an interview with the consignees, which was necessary; but how was the landing effected? To whom was a British merchant indebted for the privilege of landing? Why, he was allowed to land and have his necessary interview with the consignees, solely through the kindness of the captain of an American brig, who lent his boat to convey the English captain to and from Vera Cruz. If this were true, how advantageous to British commerce would have been the presence of a British 936 sloop of war? The noble Lord said, that if we had sent a British squadron to the Gulf of Mexico, it would have afforded no defence to the place unless we were prepared to issue a declaration of war against France. He was the last person in that House to wish to give any intimation of war with that country; he desired to preserve with her the most amicable relations, but this desire would never prevent him from expressing his opinion of the conduct of France when he should think it necessary. He could not concur in the opinion, that the presence of a naval force for the protection of British interests would have been useless. He could conceive that the subordinate authorities of a great power acting at a distance from home, would be restrained from violence by the presence of such a force. Would the noble Lord tell him for what purpose a British fleet was now on that station? The noble Lord said that it was for the purpose of adding moral weight to the representations of the British minister at Mexico. If, then, the presence of a British fleet without any intention to go to war, had such a salutary moral influence over the weaker power, why should it not exercise a like influence over the stronger? Had we anything to exact from Mexico? Then what moral influence could we have over the weaker party that was independent of us? The noble Lord said, that we were not to go all over the world to find whether any two powers were in a state of hostility, and then to insist on their becoming amicable. Perhaps we had no right to interfere in such cases; but if that were correct, what right had we to send a fleet to the Gulf of Mexico, for the purpose of adding naval influence to the representations of our minister there? Suppose Mexico should decline the interference; suppose she should say, "France has no right, by fear of war to ask what is unjust. France has no right to dictate on what terms the citizens of France should set up any trade in Mexico; it is a matter of internal arrangement, which, if we concede, we shall forfeit the independence of our state. It is better to go to war than to suffer this dictation; we must, therefore, refuse the interference of the British consul, and we must decline all mediation." What would be the use of moral influence? for what right should we have to interfere? The noble Lord could not understand the meaning of a fleet to protect our commerce; except in 937 cases of piracy, and he said, that we ought to presume that every government would he actuated by principles of equity and justice, and that our commerce, therefore, was in no danger—then there was no necessity for a fleet. Yet, if unjust conditions were tried to be exacted by strong powers from weak, and that our commercial interests with the weaker power should be affected thereby, this was exactly a case in which to give confidence to the weaker power, and to remove the evil to our own commerce; a squadron would be necessary to act as a control or as a moral influence, if the noble Lord pleased so to call it, over the subordinate authorities of the great power; and this was precisely the occasion when, if a fleet were kept up, it might be usefully employed. He thought, therefore, that there had been no vindication of the Government, for our not having had a naval force in the Gulf of Mexico; and it would be impossible to carry out the boast of Mr. Canning, "that to redress the balance of the old world, he had called into existence the new;" if we allowed our South American influence to be undermined, and if we allowed quarrels to arise and strong powers to enforce, at the point of the sword, satisfaction for alleged injuries, and new principles for the future to be thus established; and unless by our amicable representations in the cause of justice, we prevented the prosecution of aggressions against the independent states of South America.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, that the right hon. Baronet had misunderstood him if he supposed that he had said, that in his opinion we had no alternative between tacit acquiescence and war with France. What he had said, and what he meant was, that the arguments which had been used by hon. Gentlemen opposite appeared to him to lead to such a conclusion; in fact, he had combated those arguments, and in doing so, he had stated his belief that there was another course, the amicable interposition of our good offices between the two parties. The right hon. Baronet need not have asked of what use the presence of a naval force was in adding weight to the representation of our minister, and for reconciling conflicting parties, for his speech proved that he did not undervalue its presence. It was perfectly evident, that it was of advantage, as well in the case of the strong as in the case of the weaker power. The right hon. Baronet asked also 938 what was the use of our naval force if it were not to protect our commerce. He admitted, that such was the main object of our naval force in time of peace, and it was distributed over different parts of the globe, and was specifically employed for that object. He was sure that he need not explain that there were perpetually occurring cases not between third parties, but between our own subjects and the subordinate officers of other governments, or between our own subjects and other governments themselves, when the presence of a naval force was a direct protection, and that its use was not confined merely to such questions as that between France and Mexico. The right hon. Baronet had quoted the case of the captain of a merchantman who had landed during the blockade at Vera Cruz, and that, in the absence of a British ship of war, had been put on shore by an American boat; but of course the right hon. Baronet must be aware, that a ship of war would have had no right to enter the harbour without the consent of the blockading force, so that it would have been impossible for the individual to have got on shore at Vera Cruz from a British man of war without the consent of the blockading squadron. But even as to this, the return which the right hon. Baronet held in his hand showed, that in the month of June, or early in July, a British ship of war sailed from Jamaica, and had arrived at Vera Cruz not long after. The right hon. Baronet had asked, whether before the French had landed and dismantled the fortifications, for they had not carried the town by assault, and after the fort had been taken, it was true that the British subjects had left Vera Cruz, taking with them their moveables? He had stated this on the authority of the consul, who, in a dispatch, informed the Government that the merchants of all nations had left the town, and that he was almost the only person left; and that he had deemed it his duty to be at his post to take charge of the property. The fact that all persons who chose had left in the interval between the dismantling of the town and the capture of the fort, showed that there was ample time for the British residents to withdraw, and he had never heard that any loss had been suffered by any person. One word as to the amendment of the hon. Member for Belfast. He certainly objected to the production of the papers. The hon. Gentleman had asked, whether any application had been made to the two Governments to 939 confirm the treaty of 1817. To which he must reply, that no such application had been made. By the treaty of Vienna—for the provisions of the treaty of Utrecht had long lapsed in the variations of war—and by the 107th article of that treaty, the Prince Regent of Portugal and the Brazils, to manifest, in the most indisputable manner, his consideration for the King of France, agreed to restore Guiana up to the river Amazon, in the 4th and 5th degrees of northern latitude, being the same limitation as it was considered was imposed on Portugal by the treaty of Utrecht. Whilst by the treaty of 1817, between Portugal and France, it was declared, that his most faithful Majesty, to carry into execution the 107th article of the treaty of Vienna, engaged to restore to the king of France, in three months or sooner, French Guiana up to the river Amazon, and specifying the precise degree of longitude west of the island of Ferro. The state of the case between France and Brazil was this:—Compensation never having been made, the French government recently took possession of the contested territory—not, however, to the extent supposed by the hon. Member for Belfast; for he (Lord Palmerston) thought, that the portion of territory occupied by them was very far short of the mouth of the Amazon. A negotiation was at the present moment going on between the two governments, and also a negotiation between this country and France. Pending that negotiation it would not be consistent with the claims of the public service to consent to the production of the additional papers moved for by the hon. Member for Belfast; he, therefore, felt it his duty to object to the production of these papers. The bon. Gentleman, however, might rest assured, that the subject had not escaped the attention of Government. France had been communicated with for the purpose of ascertaining amicably what had been the cause of the occupation, and in the hope that an accommodation between the two governments might be effected.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that as the noble Lord had received such formal and satisfactory guarantees from the French government on the subject of this occupation, he hoped the noble Lord would give the House also the satisfaction of perusing them.
§ Viscount Palmerston
would give the right hon. Baronet an answer on a future 940 occasion as to the production of the papers in question.
§ Mr. E. Tennent
wished to know what answer the noble Lord had received with regard to the application of British subjects in Para for compensation.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, the British Government had applied to the Brazilian government for compensation to our subjects. The Brazilian government denied the claim, and offered reasons in support of that denial, and there had been a great deal of correspondence between the two governments on the subject. The last answer of the British Government was sent out some time back, but no reply had as yet been received. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman would see that the claims of the public service required that he should postpone his application until the negotiation was closed one way or another.
§ In reply to an observation (inaudible) by Mr. E. Tennent,
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, that the hon. Member was mistaken in supposing that instructions had been sent out to our minister at the Brazils to enforce a positive demand.
§ Mr. M. Phillips
thought, that the French had forgotten their honour, and had far out stepped what was due from one nation to another, and especially from the stronger to the weaker, when they required payment of 200,000 dollars as the expenses of the expedition.
§ Amendment withdrawn. Original motion agreed to.